Home Secretary Announces New Consultation To Tackle Domestic Abuse

The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has announced a consultation on domestic abuse with the aim of introducing new legislation to tackle it.

The consultation includes a 'statutory definition of Domestic abuse', the creation of a 'Domestic Abuse Commissioner', 'Domestic Abuse Protection Orders' allowing police and courts to act more quickly and effectively when abuse is suspended, and tougher sentences for cases involving children.

With studies revealing adults who witness abuse as a child more likely to experience it from a partner as an adult, an £8 million fund (part of previously announced £20m fund) is to be allocated to support children who witness domestic abuse, helping their recovery through locally commissioned projects.

Speaking to LADbible, the Home Secretary outlined her vision, setting out a 'clear strategy' on enforcement and 'support for victims', airing a desire to 'engage stakeholders, NGOs, communities' and 'society in general' in tackling domestic abuse.

Vitally, she says, it must include men, who have traditionally been left out of the discussion.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

"I think it's really important to not just talk about it as part of the women's problem, but a problem for us all," Rudd told LADbible.

When pressed as to how men could become more involved in tackling domestic abuse, the Home Secretary added: "It's about raising awareness about what we can do, about bringing the issue of domestic abuse out of the shadow and making people much more aware about it, talking about it, creating opportunities for men to speak out."

One of the key elements of proposed legislation, building on 2015's Serious Crimes Act, which made coercive and controlling behaviour an offence, is a recognition that domestic abuse goes 'beyond violence'.

The Home Secretary gave examples, such as an abuser taking control of their partner's 'finances, what they wear, who they see'.

New guidelines also highlight how abuse can extend to social media or even tracking devices in today's climate. The 2015 Act focused not solely on violence but on 'patterns of abuse'.

With new sentencing guidelines looking at how intimidation and controlling and coercive behaviour can be 'facilitated by technology' it's hoped heightened awareness will help judges make more informed decisions.

As for the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, the Home Secretary says they will 'challenge us to make sure that we actually do deliver and ensure victims are protected'.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Women's Aid Chief Executive Katie Ghosie has voiced encouragement at proposed legislation: "We want to see the Bill encompass and go beyond changes to the criminal justice system to include policies on housing, education, health, immigration and the welfare system to ensure that every survivor and her child can safely escape domestic abuse."

Some have voiced concerns that despite positive steps, those most vulnerable to domestic abuse will remain at risk, particularly those in need of refuge.

"We have a £20m fund set aside for women's refuges and we're consulting on the best way to deliver on that effectively," the Home Secretary says, adding that a new 'violence against women and girls strategy' has been announced with funding of £100m.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

The Home Secretary says the number of bed spaces has 'increased by 10 percent'.

ONS figures back this up, though it varies by region (West Midlands has more spaces than the South West, for example).

Moreover, ONS statistics show (ending March 2016) that 4 in 10 women referred to refuge services in England were declined due to lack of space or capacity to support victims, one quarter in Wales; emphasising continued work to be done in helping those most vulnerable.

On this, the Home Secretary said "There's no way that as an outcome in this area I will accept any reduction in the number of beds. I have to make sure we do it in a way that's the most effective to support the victim, that the right funds go in the right place.

She also voiced encouragement at increased 'sensitivity from the police' on the issue of domestic abuse and greater confidence among people in reporting incidents, though many women still don't report domestic abuse to police.

Asked how the gap between the amount of time it takes to bring charges after reported cases of domestic abuse, the Home Secretary said: "If that space is growing between crime taking place and the woman coming forward to report it or the charge taking place we need to look at how we can reduce this."

She reiterated her conviction that 'we need to make men part of the conversation here', noting that 'the vast majority are appalled by this'.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Ronan O'Shea

Ronan J O'Shea is a freelance journalist from London who has written for titles including LADbible, Headspace, The Independent, National Geographic Traveller and New York Post. Contact him at [email protected]

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